No. 17 Duke at No. 2 Syracuse 6:30 p.m. (ESPN)

Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski prepares to face his ‘best friend’ in basketball, Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim

lkeeley@newsobserver.comJanuary 31, 2014 

  • No. 17 Duke at No. 2 Syracuse

    When: 6:30 p.m.

    Where: Carrier Dome, Syracuse, N.Y.

    TV/Radio: ESPN, WKIX-102.9 FM

    Projected Starting lineups

    Duke (17-4, 6-2)

    G Quinn Cook (12.4 ppg, 5.5 apg)

    G Rasheed Sulaimon (8.3 ppg, 2.1 apg)

    F Rodney Hood (17.4 ppg, 2.1 apg)

    F Jabari Parker (18.8 ppg, 1.3 apg)

    C Amile Jefferson (6.8 ppg, 1.0 apg)

    Syracuse (20-0, 7-0)

    G Tyler Ennis (12.3 ppg, 5.4 apg)

    G Trevor Cooney (13.2 ppg, 1.4 apg)

    F C.J. Fair (16.7 ppg. 1.5 apg)

    F Jerami Grant (12.4 ppg, 1.6 apg)

    C Rakeem Christmas (5.6, 0.6 apg)

    How they match up


    Fr. Tyler Ennis (6-2, 180) vs. Jr. Quinn Cook (6-2, 180)

    No ACC player has been more important to his team than Tyler Ennis, who plays best against top competition and at the end of games.

    Edge: Syracuse



    R-So. Trevor Cooney (6-4, 195) vs. So. Rasheed Sulaimon (6-4, 190)

    Cooney is second in the ACC in steals (behind Ennis), is the Orange’s 3-point sharpshooter (he leads the league with an average of 2.9 per game) and hits 40 percent of his attempts. This is the spot that Krzyzewski has juggled the lineup most often at, though Sulaimon seems to have found his stride of late.

    Edge: Syracuse


    Sr. C.J. Fair (6-8, 215) vs. R-So. Rodney Hood (6-8, 215)

    After Hood locked down ACC player of the year candidate Lamar Patterson on Monday in Pittsburgh, his job doesn’t get any easier against C.J. Fair, the ACC preseason player of the year. Fair is the Orange’s go-to option on offense as well as a stout defender in the back of the zone, but if Hood can hold him in check, forcing a wash at this position, Duke comes out ahead. Hood will be a factor on the offensive end as well, most likely working through the high post

    Edge: Push


    So. Jerami Grant (6-8, 210) vs. Fr. Jabari Parker (6-8, 235)

    Grant is a nice player, with the length you would expect from a Syracuse wing, but Parker is so multidimensional on offense that it’s hard to give any player the edge over him. Parker’s new-found rebounding abilities – he has posted a double-double in the last three games – could be key against the zone.

    Edge: Duke


    Jr. Rakeem Christmas (6-9, 250) vs So. Amile Jefferson (6-9, 210)

    Christmas’ contributions come on defense – he protects the rim, and the Orange don’t need or expect much from him offensively. Jefferson has been playing the best basketball of his career lately, becoming an especially productive rebounder despite his smaller frame. He handled bigger opponents in the last two games (Florida State and Pitt) fine.

    Edge: Duke


    The Orange basically uses a six-man rotation. Duke’s bench goes 10 deep, with 3-point specialist Andre Dawkins being a potential X-factor in the game.

    Edge: Duke



    The two most winningest coaches in college basketball. Can’t go wrong with either.

    Edge: Push

It was years ago, so many that no one can remember exactly how many, when Mike Krzyzewski and Jim Boeheim met. Boeheim was a participant in the Duke Children’s Classic celebrity golf tournament. Krzyzewski was there, too, as an observer (he’s never been a golfer – he was a tennis guy back then).

In 1990, Krzyzewski picked Boeheim and a mutual friend, P. J. Carlesimo, as his assistants for the World Championships and Goodwill Games with USA Basketball. Fifteen years later, when Krzyzewski was named the head coach of the USA national team, he didn’t hesitate to bring Boeheim – whom he calls his best friend in basketball – back on board. Chris Collins, the former Duke assistant and current Northwestern head coach, remembers Boeheim’s inclusion as a “no-brainer,” the one spot on staff that was filled instantly.

“It was a real quick decision,” said Jerry Colangelo, the managing director for USA Basketball who chose Krzyzewski to lead the national team. “Without hesitancy, Coach K said, ‘I want Jimmy Boeheim there next to me as my guy.’ That was one of the quickest, easiest decisions that we had to make.”

Two Olympic golds later – with the pursuit of a third about to get underway – Krzyzewski, 66, and Boeheim, 69, will meet Saturday on opposite sidelines, with No. 17 Duke (17-4, 6-2 ACC) traveling to No. 2 Syracuse (20-0, 7-0) for the two storied programs’ first meeting as conference rivals. Both coaches have become synonymous with the basketball teams at their schools – this is Krzyzewski’s 34th season at Duke. Boeheim has led his alma mater for the past 38 seasons.

The word rivals is appropriate, especially from the Syracuse perspective – the campus bookstore began printing “Beat Duke” T-shirts in November. During the win over North Carolina earlier this month, fans in the Carrier Dome started chanting “We want Duke!” And some students have been camping out in the freezing cold for two weeks in the tent city dubbed Boeheimburg, all in the name of getting the best seats Saturday. They’ll make up part of the expected 35,446 in attendance, which will set an NCAA record for on-campus attendance of a college basketball game.

The significance of the game – there are 1,914 wins between the coaches – isn’t lost on either. It’s an important milestone in the development of the revamped, 15-team ACC.

“That will be one of those instant rivalries. We’re going to see much more than Duke and Carolina showcased in this league, with all these new additions,” Krzyzewski said in the preseason. “It’s a great time for that. In some way, I think that may have held the league back, or held the people that think about basketball and our league back, because you had this golden goose of Duke and Carolina, and now we don’t have just one goose, man. We’ve got a lot of stuff.”

Krzyzewski has so much respect for Boeheim that, for years, whenever Duke would switch into a zone defense (those few times a season), he would call out “Orange,” a name inspired by Boeheim’s trademark 2-3 zone defense at Syracuse. Orange was the call USA Basketball used for its zone defense, too, and on one occasion – the only time Boeheim specifically suggested it – the zone helped seal a win.

It was 2010, and Team USA was playing an exhibition game versus Spain, in Madrid, as a warm-up for the 2010 FIBA World Championship. Team USA had a double-digit lead, but Spain kept finding driving lanes and took the lead in the final minute before Derrick Rose put the Americans up 86-85 with 16.9 seconds remaining. Spain had the ball for the last shot. Timeout was called.

“We were halfway through the timeout and I said to Mike, I had his ear for a second, and I said, ‘the zone might work here,’ ” Boeheim said. “I’ll tell you, one thing people don’t know about Coach Krzyzewski is he’s very open to players’ suggestions and coaches’ suggestions. If you make a suggestion, like practice is too long, he’ll adjust it. If you say, we should put this guy in the game, he will do that. He’s not, like, I’m making all the decisions here, he’s not that kind of coach.

“So anyway, I said I think this might be something that works, and he said, you know, let’s go with that.”

The move worked. International rules prevent a team from calling timeout once the ball is in play, so Spain was caught off-guard by the zone and couldn’t get a good shot off, with Kevin Durant blocking their two last attempts.

“We haven’t used it since,” Boeheim said. “I guess we’re saving that for a big moment somewhere down the road.”

Collins said the staff had a good laugh after the game – the diehard man-to-man believer, Krzyzewski, switching to a zone to ensure a win. Then it came time for Boeheim to laugh – he wasn’t a big fan of Krzyzewski’s habit of bringing his staff together to watch film immediately after a game’s end (these sessions routinely go long into the night after Duke games).

“Coach Boeheim would always yell at Wojo (Duke assistant Steve Wojciechowski) and I and tell us we had to stay with Coach because he wasn’t going to watch the film,” Collins said, with a laugh. “He said he didn’t work for Coach K, so we were the ones that were going to have to stay there and watch with him.”

According to Colangelo, both Krzyzewski and Boeheim can be “funnier than you can imagine, when they let their hair down just a bit.” Collins also mentioned Boeheim’s humor and his eye for good Italian restaurants in every city they visited.

“They come across differently,” said Dick Vitale, who has worked around them throughout his 35 years calling basketball games for ESPN. “You look at Mike, and you see the unbelievable intensity and incredible passion. I always tease him, ‘Mike, you’ve won a few games in your time. The bottom line is you don’t have to prove anything.’ But that’s what makes him special. He’s all about the moment.

“When you go to Jimmy, Jimmy basically gives you that, ‘well, we’re not that good, we’re struggling, we’re not playing as well as we should,’ and I look at him and say, ‘Jim, excuse me, you guys are 20-0.’ 

For all their differences in style and personality, the traits they share offer insight to their success.

“They’re both very fiery and very competitive,” Collins said. “You don’t win to the level that those guys have won without being passionate and fiery about what you’re doing. You just don’t.”

Keeley: 919-829-4556; Twitter: @laurakeeley

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